USDA provides $3.7 million grant to help replenish bottomland, hardwood forests in Arkansas

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 732 views 

Arkansas’ bottomland hardwood forests need to be replenished and part of a $3.7 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant will be used to restore those forests. Scientists believe these forests will play a role in combating climate change.

Dr. Homer Wilkes, undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment for the USDA, met Friday (Dec. 16) with faculty from the University of Arkansas at Monticello (UAM) and the Arkansas Forest Resources Center (AFRC) of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture to announce the grant.

The meeting took place at Five Oaks Ag Research and Education Center in Humphrey. Part of the work for the project will be conducted at the research center.

The grant provides funding for USDA Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities projects, which are aimed at supporting sustainability in agriculture. AFRC at UAM is the lead on the project and will partner with the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) and Texas A&M University (TAMU), as well as with recruited landowners.

Dr. Nana Tian, assistant professor of natural resources economics and policy at UAM, developed the proposal for the grant and will serve as the project director.

The project will support small and underserved landowners in the river-influenced forest regions of Arkansas to develop and harness climate-smart commodities from restoration of the region’s hardwood forests.

Bottomland hardwood forests have shown high potential for producing climate-smart commodities including carbon sequestration and storage, wood products, wildlife and other ecosystem services. Despite their importance, 70% of bottomland hardwood forest areas have been lost in the past 100 years.

“Restoring bottomland hardwood forests is considered a viable climate-smart agricultural/forestry practice. Small and underserved family landowners play a critical role in implementing this practice, but they face more barriers to adopting them than other landowners,” Tian said.

“This project aims to plant 500 to 600 acres of oak forests in the agriculturally dominant floodplain of the Red River Valley of southwestern Arkansas, the Ouachita River Valley of south central Arkansas and the Bayou Meto Watershed in eastern Arkansas. The project will also quantify and demonstrate the ecological and economic benefits of bottomland hardwood forest restoration on working lands and help landowners manage the plantations and market climate-smart commodities,” Tian added.